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Future Society, Present Values

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Many works set in the future presume that people in the future will have the same social mores and values as they do in the present, excepting a few superficial changes in order to facilitate the plot, demonstrate the foreignness/"futureness" of the setting, or satisfy Author Appeal. The assumption is that our future will be essentially the same as our present — bigger, smaller, sleeker, faster or more automated, but still recognizable as our world.

For writers, it often involves Acceptable Breaks from Reality: it's a lot easier to observe the society you have than to predict which way it's going to go. Consequently the work is likely to appeal to a wider audience than a work which assumes the future will be foreign and puts in the appropriate amount of alien world-building. After all, who in the 25th century will be reading this anyway? (Presumably, the same sort of people who read books from the 17th century now...)

Unfortunately, when authors do get the future wrong, it shows.

Even if the technology is predicted perfectly, modern readers may lose Willing Suspension of Disbelief when reading a work written in The '50s, set in the present day, and assuming the attitudes of the present day will be exactly like those of the Fifties. They may even be severely bothered if a work from the Fifties assumes that attitudes in the far future will be just like those in the Fifties. (Even if the author had no way of knowing about The Beatles, even if it is the far future, it just seems wrong to read that a lover of popular music in the future goes primarily for jazz quartets or big bands, with not an electric guitar or synthesizer to be seen.) note  Sometimes the author will correctly predict some of the effects of a new technology, but completely miss others; many authors correctly foresaw the effect of automobiles on working habits and city design, but not one person foresaw the effect that access to automobiles would have on teen sexual activity.

The most disturbing instances from our future point of view are those that miss more important social changes. To continue the '50s example, there are plenty of examples that failed to expect the civil rights movement. The schools may be futuristic and electronic, but they're still segregated. note  The other two big changes that older works miss are greater gender equality (even on the space colonies, women Stay in the Kitchen) and the end of the Cold War (still wrangling with the Commies in the 22nd Century).

To be sure, this is most significant when a work is actively trying to model a "normal" future, rather than a setting with a collapse into neo-feudalism or a dystopia or the like. Sometimes a writer addresses a contemporary social issue with a morality play set in the future, which naturally requires the social issue to still be a problem in that future.

This trope will often apply to modern works set 20 Minutes into the Future as well. This is the social equivalent to Zeerust. The inverse of this, when the social mores of the present are presumed to apply in the past, is Politically Correct History.

Related to Values Dissonance, Fair for Its Day, Science Marches On, Technology Marches On, Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale, and Failed Future Forecast. Eternal Prohibition, and Everybody Smokes are specific cases. Free-Love Future is a specific aversion of this.


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    Films — Live-Action 
  • This video from 1966, which imagines what life would be like in 1999, manages to predict home computers, email, and what is effectively internet shopping, but still assumes that the average woman will be paying for goods with her husband's money.
  • War of the Worlds (2005) has this in the very first spoken line of dialogue. The original novel, which was published in 1898, began with the words, "No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own." In 1898, it was likely most people would agree with that statement. In the 2005 film, wanting to tie in the film with the book, the writers had the narrator say the same line, only updated: "No one would have believed in the early years of the 21st century, that our world was being watched by intelligences greater than our own." Even a rudimentary Google search will show just how many people actually do believe just that. Indeed, humans have been looking for alien intelligences since the 1970s ourselves. Many believe they're already here.
  • Atlas Shrugged
    • Hank Rearden is blackmailed into signing away the rights to Rearden Metal with evidence of his extramarital affair with Dagny Taggart, a subplot that comes straight from the novel. In 1957, when the book was published, this felt like a serious threat. But since the movie places the story in 2016, the idea that this was damaging enough to sign away his life's work just comes across as bizarre. Notably, in the novel, Hank doesn't comply for his own sake, but because the story would ruin Dagny. The notion that the single woman would take more blame than the married man has not aged well.
    • Most of the fundamental economic philosophy espoused in the movie has gone from a potentially viable alternative to partially socialized economies to completely discredited empirically in the years since the book was written, too, and it shows. Most jarringly for viewers even slightly familiar with corporate practices is the idea that existing, successful companies would fail due to what amounts to one of the venture capitalists that funded the start-up bowing out. Not only does that not happen, but buying into companies early and cashing out once they've succeeded is how venture capitalists make their money; what happened to Rearden is the standard procedure for people in his position and is largely thought to benefit the capitalist more than anyone else.
  • Forbidden Planet:
    • The film opens with a monologue describing how by the twenty-first century men and women are reaching out into space, implying a certain degree of equality... and the first thing we cut to is a massive space expedition crew made up of white American men.
    • Many of said men also display a very clear 1950s attitude when interacting with Alta, the one female character in the movie. One scene involves her being told to "cover herself" (since up until that point she was wearing skimpy outfits and getting the crew sexually aroused), and has Robby the Robot make her a new dress... since just wearing a pair of pants is unthinkable.
  • George Pal's 1955 film Conquest of Space made some interesting technological predictions, including a concept for a spaceship with principles vaguely reminiscent of the space shuttle. There is even a bit of Fair for Its Day in that there is some racial equality so far as the one Japanese crew member being treated with respect by the otherwise white cast. What the film got wrong was assuming the U.S. space program would still be run by the military.note  Also women Stay in the Kitchen back on Earth while the men are the ones who get to go into space. In other words, according to this film, female astronauts don't exist, which may be especially jarring to a modern viewer in light of a certain more recent critically acclaimed film centered around a female astronaut. In addition, the Captain of the ship comes to think of the mission as sacrilegious, with Mankind's presence in God's perfect heavens being an insult to the almighty. This was actually a real movement that flourished very briefly when the idea of space travel was first mooted as a serious possibility. By the time the movie came out the philosophy was rapidly dying out, and the launch of Sputnik a couple of years later washed the remnants away completely. To modern audiences it just looks like a delusional symptom of the man going insane.
  • The infamous b-movie Doomsday Machine, where the female crew members are only added in as a last resort once it becomes clear the Earth is doomed, and the remaining male crew members are absolutely baffled by the idea of women being capable astronauts. Though the bemused misogyny doesn't kick in until later: the initial shock was over half their team getting removed at the last moment and the mission suddenly becoming co-ed.
  • The Stepford Wives more blatantly so than the book it was adapted from. It was made right in the middle of the 70s during Second Wave Feminism and the divorce revolution, but set 20 Minutes into the Future (where technology allows the men of Stepford to create realistic robots). The idea that men raised in conservative families could replace their liberated feminist wives with domestic robots seemed far more plausible and horrific back then. The numerous couples with problems stay together rather than divorce because the common belief at the time was that it was better to stay in a loveless marriage than subject the children to an unpleasant divorce. That attitude had given way to more liberal views by the end of the 70s, so when the 2004 remake came along the premise was played for comedy rather than horror.
  • RoboCop (1987): The newscast at the beginning of the film depicts South Africa as not only still under Apartheid, but embroiled in what seems like a civil war. The besieged city-state of Pretoria has armed themselves with a French-made Neutron Bomb and are willing to use it as their last line of defense. Three years after the film's release, the National Party began deconstructing the Apartheid system and transitioned to majority rule in 1994.

  • The Lord of Opium: In the future, nations between Mexico and the US export drugs to other countries in exchange for patrolling the border between the two nations. One of the nations of the Dope Confederacy exports marijuana in the 22nd century. Seeing that the book came out in 2013, it's odd that a nation would need to make marijuana to export illegally, seeing that many nations at the time of the time of publication and at the time this entry is being written (April 2015) are relaxing marijuana laws or even outright legalizing it.
  • Modern readers of Walter Miller's post-apocalyptic classic A Canticle for Leibowitz may find some of the future Catholic dogmas to be a bit...antiquated. This is due to the novel being written just a few years before Vatican II, and thus including none of its changes.
  • Robert A. Heinlein:
    • Podkayne of Mars, set in the distant space-faring future, features a main character who would like to become the first ever female spaceship captain. The first instance of a woman (Eileen Collins) captaining a spaceship occurred in July 1999. The fact that Podkayne will face discrimination on account of her sex is clearly labelled unfair. Heinlein makes the same point in 'Rolling Stones' in which Hazel Stone is passed over for promotion on account of her sex.
    • And yet in Starship Troopers (written just prior to Podkayne of Mars) commanding starships is exclusively a female job. (It's claimed in-universe that women are better-suited for the job in terms of reflexes, stamina, and psychological makeup.) Heinlein tended to be all over the map on gender equality.
    • All of Heinlein's work is prone to this. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, for instance, despite showcasing many cultural differences in the lunar society (not the least of which is ubiquitous polyamory) portrays gender issues much as a 1950s writer would be expected to think of a post-feminist world: touching women without their permission is a major societal taboo... but it is up to the woman's male friends or relatives to protect her, and women are still generally considered unintelligent (or at least irrational or illogical) and unfit for many positions. The main reason the culture's attitudes toward women have changed at all is that women are a substantial minority on Luna (a situation that is itself the result of the presumption of 1950s values.) The rival Earth society, where the sexes are still 50/50 in numbers, shows female nurses giggling at having their rears pinched, rather than filing sexual harassment lawsuits.
    • The Puppet Masters was published in 1951 and set in 2007. Although the heroine is just as tough and capable as the male lead (sometimes more so), the moment gender roles or romantic relationships come up she turns, hilariously, into June Cleaver.
    • Heinlein's short story —All You Zombies— features a sex-segregated future in which astronauts and space pilots are always male, and the spaceship stewardess/prostitutes in skimpy outfits are all female. Written not long after WWII, the story fails to anticipate that the horrifying events of that war would lead to very strict legislation about medical procedures and informed consent. His central character is placed under general anesthesia — and wakes to be informed, after the fact, that they have been subjected without consent to sex change surgery. In our world such a character would not be relegated to a hand-to-mouth living writing confession stories, because they would sue the hospital and doctor into bankruptcy.
    • Heinlein often averted this trope as well. He frequently cast non-whites and people of mixed-race as protagonists in his works despite writing before the American Civil Rights era. Races were equal in his world, while the sexes tended to be different but enjoyed de facto legal equality. Readers of his era were not used to seeing a mixed-race or non-white protagonist. In his most famous work, Starship Troopers, the main character is Filipino, with most major characters also being non-American, and usually non-white. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress continues this, with Manny being mixed race, and part of a polygamous mixed race marriage, which gets him thrown into jail when visiting the South. Further, Podkayne of Mars has Podkayne see only her sex as an issue with becoming a captain. The fact she's black doesn't rate a concern.
    • Zigzagged in his teen novel Tunnel in the Sky. On the one hand, women make up their own (separate) military units and make up half the survival-course students in the story; on the other, sexual mores are such that a bunch of teenagers, isolated from their parents and all forms of authority, take time to stage their own marriage ceremonies in the middle of a hostile wilderness before daring to fool around. When the protagonist gets home, his parents' attitude is that of people who fully expect him to let them pick his friends for him. Oh, and when his military sister opts to get married, she has to leave the corps.
    • In Space Cadet (Heinlein), the Patrol, which the main characters belong to, is exclusively male.
    • All of Heinlein's juveniles, despite being set in some indeterminate future, read like The '50s with better technology. One obvious example is the main character in Have Spacesuit Will Travel. On the one hand, his life ambition is to become an aerospace engineer. On the other, he's a recent high school graduate who has a summer job as a soda jerk at the local pharmacy.
    • Stranger in a Strange Land: Although far from a free love utopia, open relationships are considerably more acceptable today than they were in Heinlein's time, as well as homosexuality. Women are also generally not secretaries and "girls" who enjoy being patronized.
    • Short story Delilah And The Space Rigger has the consternation caused by the first woman working in a space station, but one of the main characters explains it's necessary for women to be part of space exploration. When the narrator says the woman should listen to what the engineer tells her because he is good at his job, she replies "I know. I trained him."
    • Barry Malzberg opined that "Heinlein's problem was that he understood perfectly how American society worked in 1945."
  • Isaac Asimov:
    • The Caves of Steel: The robot series does a pretty good job of portraying future Earth's culture realistically, but there are some hints that give away its age.
      • Elijah's son, Bentley, uses language so stereotypical of The '50s that it may sound closer to parody to modern readers.
      • Corporal punishment for reprimanding children is considered a routine occurrence thousands of years in the future. The sequel, The Naked Sun, even has a lengthy discussion on how difficult but necessary it is programming a Three Laws-Compliant robot to understand why spanking a child performs a greater good for their future development than failing to administer any punishment.
      • The role of women on Earth is also extremely vague. Because resource-starved Earth cannot afford amenities, most people live in tiny apartments which do not have kitchens, eat in communal cafeterias, and have small families due to Population Control. These factors make the role of a Housewife largely redundant, yet Detective Baley interacts with virtually no women besides his wife, making law enforcement and government as male-dominated as they were in the real-world 1950s. The Robots of Dawn, written 30 years later in 1983, does introduce a female official and mentions policewomen, stating that the novels merely occur at a time women seldom choose these career paths.
      • Spacer women manage to discover careers in sciences and politics as easily as the men do, because of their post-scarcity societies and the fact that robot servants handle all domestic tasks, including raising children. Thus, Spacer women would have nothing to do with themselves if they didn't have careers. That said, the social culture of Spacer men and women don't appear integrated because Detective Baley encounters so few. In The Robots of Dawn, Dr. Fastolfe has a wife, she's dismissed during the events of the novel. His daughter is also a roboticist like him, but as with most Spacer scientists, she is a borderline misanthrope.
    • The Complete Adventures of Lucky Starr: Despite being set far enough in the future to have Casual Interplanetary Travel, women are barely featured in the series (four of the books have no women at all) and certainly none are in positions of power.
    • Foundation Series: The scope of this series is epic, but The Foundation Trilogy uses gender roles practically identical to 1950s United States. When Dr Asimov revisited the series decades later, he included women more prominently, especially in the form of Mayor Harla Branno, his first female mayor. She is an Iron Lady ruler for Terminus and the Foundation, introduced in Foundation's Edge (1982), and wants to conquer the galaxy centuries earlier than the Seldon Plan expects. However, Dr Asimov is clearly more comfortable writing male characters, despite continuing to add badass females like Dors Venabili and Bliss.
    • "Feminine Intuition": The designers of a subtly feminine-looking robot believe that everyone will assume it is mentally inferior to other robots. One character explicitly states that if there's anything the average person believes, it's that women are less intelligent than men. Upon saying this, he nervously glances around (Dr Susan Calvin having recently retired). At the end, after Dr Calvin comes back to save the day, the lesson is that men dismiss women's equal (if not superior) intelligence as mere "intuition".
    • "Little Lost Robot": Dr Calvin is questioning the last person to see the titular robot, and they are reluctant to repeat their exact words in front of a lady. Dr Calvin insists on precision, and the witness's superior offers to be the visual target of the Cluster F-Bomb repetition. A Narrative Profanity Filter is provided for the audience, but the superior is incensed at the language. Dr Calvin, to her credit, merely states that she knows what most of those words mean and suspects that the others are equally derogatory. In today's society, cursing out a random woman is much less offensive than cursing out your superior.
    • "The Ugly Little Boy": The lack of any ethics, or any requirement for ethical approval, is shocking—especially given that ethical treatment of research subjects was a very hot topic (due to the disclosures of Nazi experimentation on concentration camp victims just 13 years before the story was written).
    • Bordering on Technology Marches On, in The '50s Asimov wrote a few stories in which future schools would teach children how to use punch cards, but not reading and writing. As you may have noticed, punch cards became obsolete before literacy did.
  • "Cocoon," a short story by Keith Laumer, has everyone living in virtual reality tanks a couple hundred years in the future. The husband "goes" to a virtual office and does virtual paperwork, while the wife sits at "home", does virtual housework and watches virtual soap operas all day. When the husband comes "home", he complains because the wife hasn't gotten around to punching the selector buttons for the evening nutripaste meal yet.
  • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe has the people in the Golgafrincham B-Ark — the joke being that all the jobs they do are useless, 'pointless' jobs — which have at least partially dated. While middle-management types and meddling marketers remain problems, people don't really look down on hairdressers as being 'pointless' any more (in the 1970s, it was just beginning to become socially acceptable for a man to go to a hairdresser's instead of a barber's, but it was still seen as very weird — nowadays men go to a hairdresser's as default, and viewing a service mostly of interest to women as pointless is seen as a bit misogynistic). Then there's the 'telephone sanitisers', who have ceased to exist along with the public telephones they service.
  • H. P. Lovecraft (a teetotaler) wrote one non-supernatural short story, "Old Bugs", about a young man who yields to temptation and goes to a speakeasy, but is saved from the evils of alcohol by a drunkard who won't stand for the youth making his own mistakes. Written between the ratification and the enactment of the 18th Amendment, it's set in the 1950s ... and booze is mentioned to be illegal on the national level.
  • Ray Bradbury:
    • "The Wilderness": A 1952 Short Story (later incorporated into The Martian Chronicles) that revolves around women sitting around being terrified about relocating (in this case, moving to Mars) just to get married (yet speaking as if they have to go), talking about being "old maids" if they don't go, and complaining about how "the men" make all their decisions for them... in 2003.
    • "Way In The Middle Of The Air": A story focused on Samuel Teece, a white Southerner whose racist views of the local "niggers" color the description of the way they pooled their resources and bought rockets in secret to escape the racist American south. In describing the region, Teece notes that the poll tax is gone and "More and more states passin' anti-lynchin' bills." The supposed date is 2003.note 
    • "The Other Foot": Bradbury assumes segregation in America will continue well into the future, and become so extreme that black people will eventually colonize Mars on their own. The all-black colony ends up in a very good position to retaliate against their former oppressors (and they almost go through with it, too) yet ultimately both sides are able to reconcile their differences and live together in peace. For added irony, the Civil Rights Movement started in the 1950s, just after this was written.
    • Also a lot of Bradbury's old "rocket exploration"-type stories (aside from the dated science), tended to have the crew of explorers be men. At the time the idea of female astronauts might have seemed a bit of a stretch.
    • "The Rocket Man": The woman has to wait months on end for her husband's return, years after she's come to think of herself as a widow, rather than contemplate (horrors!) simply divorcing the man who abandons her over and over.
  • In Edmond Hamilton's The Sargasso Of Space, it is evidently assumed that crewing space ships would be a job primarily reserved for men, much like sailing was when the story was written.
  • The book Steampunk Prime has a number of late 19th and early 20th century science fiction stories that contain examples of this. "In the Deep of Time" involves a man who is cryonically revived in an advanced future... where woman STILL are expected to be subordinate to men.
  • In Piers Anthony's Omnivore, most of the melodrama pivots on Aquilon being torn between her feelings for Cal and Veg, her colleagues on a far-future space mission. It seems strange to modern readers that she's too afraid of looking like a slut to become sexually involved with either man. Maybe that's how sci-fi readers felt about things in 1968, but now it just seems like prudish Wangst.
  • The fourth book of The Helmsman Saga has Wilf Brim amazed at a woman from another culture having a completely shaved pubic area, something he states he never encountered earlier. When the book was written in 1991, that might have been unusual. When it was rewritten 20 years later... well, the scene was cut down considerably.
  • Men, Martians and Machines. According to Sarge all doctors aboard spaceships are black because "for reasons not understood, no Negro had ever suffered space sickness." This portrayal is Fair for Its Day in that a black person in a position of authority in a white-dominated society was remarkable in itself, and for the idea of having a multi-racial crew due to different races being good at different things. White Terrestrials are good at engines, Black Terrestrials don't suffer space sickness, Martians can work in low pressure environments and concentrate on multiple tasks simultaneously, the android Jay Score can handle extreme conditions. The theme of the book is that by working together, all these diverse races can handle any crisis. Consider that this book was published in 1955 when Humans Are White was the more common trope. Where it still falls into this trope is that the crew is entirely male.
  • One of Philip K. Dick's lesser known short stories is a piece called Some Kinds of Life, which is about humanity's constant tendency to find reasons to go to war. The whole thing is told from the point of view of a housewife in a future society as members of her family are drafted into military service for various wars in different parts of the Solar System and end up being killed in action. The story ends with the wife receiving a draft notice of her own and being genuinely shocked by the notion that the army would become desperate enough to start recruiting women (they do this after resorting to recruiting boys under the regulation age). This would probably have made sense when it was written, as it was likely at a point when the army was still very male-exclusive and women were only permitted in very specific fields. However, it may seem a bit jarring to a modern reader living in a world where it is not so unusual for women to serve in the military with just as much combat training as their male comrades.
  • Published in 1959, Alas, Babylon portrays breastfeeding and home canning as relics which have all but disappeared prior to the nuclear strike depicted in the book, but which must be reluctantly revived in the conditions prevailing afterward. Both practices have made a strong comeback since the 1950s.
    Helen: What happens to babies?
    Doctor: Evaporated or condensed canned milk... while it lasts. After that, it's mother's milk.
    Helen: That will be old-fashioned, won't it?
  • A. E. van Vogt's short story The Weapon Shop, published in 1942, is seemingly set in a future where humanity has begun colonizing other planets and one government has almost absolute authority over everything. Said political body is made up of men outside of the ruling Empress. Meanwhile, the "Weapon Shop" itself is a front for a resistance movement protecting people's rights, but when the protagonist is brought to a special meeting place where workers are being helped the story describes him seeing "thousands of men". Though it refers to female secretaries, the writer evidently never considered the possibility of women getting involved with the workforce.
  • In Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series, the titular planet is a Feudal Future Lost Colony, while the rest of humanity has spread out into what is referred to as "The Terran Empire". While this is thousands of years in the future, the Terran Empire's social values are pretty blatantly those of 1960s - 1980s America. This includes women taking their husband's full names, and being expected to abandon certain careers if they marry. Homosexuals are still mostly closeted. The Darkovans are meant to provide a social contrast, being more regressive with their essentially Medieval treatment of women, while having somewhat greater tolerance for, but not full acceptance of, homosexuality than the Terrans. Neither society looks especially progressive in any respect to readers after the 1990s though.
  • Orson Scott Card has this very blatantly in his Ender series, possibly due to Author Appeal. Written in the 80s, the multi-planetary society of the last three books is extremely religious considering 3,000 years have passed since modern day. Planets are weirdly segregated by nationality, despite those having long lost any real meaning, and they have "licenses" for official religions, even those based on modern secular societies. The protagonists and their companions regularly venture into theology, which is mostly no longer true for a society only 30 years after the books.
    • This is particularly bad in Speaker for the Dead and its sequel, Xenocide, where a lot of the plot points are being derived from Card's assumption that Brazilian society (the basis for the location of the book) would remain as conservative and Catholic as it was when he traveled there for his missionary mission.
  • Averting this is specifically one of the reasons why A Clockwork Orange uses a new brand of slang created from scratch coupled with an alien, otherworldly future with very different values (to begin with: bars that instead of booze serve milk laced with narcotics) — if Anthony Burgess's rendition of 1962's 20 Minutes into the Future were based on what was actually going on in 1962, the book and its film would have aged pretty poorly.
  • H. Beam Piper:
    • "Omnilingual": Averted: Written in the 1950s and set in the 1990s, where a multinational mission to Mars has a gender-equal crew and a female protagonist who makes an important discovery. All these people have a cocktail hour after work finishes for the day.
    • In Little Fuzzy and sequels, it's downplayed.
      • Everybody Smokes centuries in the future (the book was released prior to widespread knowledge of smoking being harmful) along with drinking. It's portrayed as mildly charming how the fuzzies (another sapient species) are introduced to smoking pipes by Jack. Granted, centuries on from now medicine might have advanced enough to make smoking no longer dangerous.
      • Only one main character is a woman. Nearly all people in top positions are men. Even she echoes the then-current custom of thinking about herself as the future Mrs. Husband's Name after they're engaged. In fairness though she's also a psychologist and navy officer whose credentials never have the slightest question about them, nor is she treated any differently than men otherwise.
    • In "Four Day Planet", the racial ancestry of any human is indeterminate due to extensive intermarrying over the past few thousand years, and a person's name will likely not line up with their visual race. But one fellow with a Scottish last name shows signs of strong Japanese heritage -and this, unfortunately, gets him tagged with the nickname "Jap".
  • The Demolished Man: Despite the characters' stated disconnect from the 20th century, the book is pretty emblematic of the time it was written in respect to gender roles, although Ms. Wyg&note  clearly has an active sex life which is only complained about when she distracts undercover cops. On the other hand, there is a scene where a black applicant is accepted into the Esper's Guild on account of his latent talent, which suggests that at least their group is meritocratic. Also, the president of the Guild is Asian.
  • An in-universe example in the short story "Tomorrow Town": the 1970s protagonist is sent to investigate a murder within a utopian bubble-society. He notices the prevalence of somewhat old-fashioned gender roles, and figures it is due to the society being founded by a Golden Age science fiction writer who imposed his own 1950s social mores on his supposedly futuristic society.
  • Books like Make Room! Make Room! and Logan's Run used the concern over overpopulation at the time as fodder for dystopian horror, as a future society is portrayed as facing extinction or resorting to draconian measures against it). While concern exists, it's slightly odd now that contraception is almost never even mentioned in books like this, let alone abortion-probably because both were very controversial (and also illegal) in much of the West at the time. Obviously there's still opposition to them, but they became common enough that in the West, underpopulation is a concern in some countries rather than overpopulation and make these look very odd to a modern reader. Even the notorious One-Child Policy of China stopped mostly in fear that they had gone too far, and the country faced a demographic crisis. Of course, this is not the only factor in lower population, but it's definitely there.
  • In Harry Turtledove's career-making novel The Guns of the South, members of the AWB (standing for Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging-Afrikaner Resistance Movement, or basically white South African Neo-Nazis) go back in time to help the Confederacy win The American Civil War. The novel was first published in 1992, and the AWB men act more like they come from that time period, rather than 2014-2018. It should be noted, however, that the only AWB men whose ages are mentioned are in their mid-late forties, and as such are just the right age to have joined a pro-Apartheid militia group right before it ended.
  • The antagonist factions in Atlas Shrugged are strawmen anyway (the writer doesn't distinguish between anyone on the political spectrum who's not fully ideologically aligned with her heroes), but many of their social views, especially Balph Eubank, a popular "progressive" philosopher, espousing Stay in the Kitchen, would not be tolerated in a modern left-wing organization, being rather anti-modernistic and anti-woman.
  • George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four:
    • O'Brien boldly proclaims that the system is going to stand forever (although the appendix at the end refers to their society in the past tense). In the heady 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, many proclaimed that inefficient dictatorships seemed doomed to be replaced by more enlightened regimes, avoiding the stagnant society of the novel... although considering democratic backsliding in places such as Russia, perhaps this bravado isn't so dated after all.
    • The idea that a Forever War was a good way to maintain public support should've been discredited after World War I, and is even more laughable in the U.S. due to the Vietnam War and Iraq. It makes sense in Orwell's model where the people of the Soviet Union backed Stalin and his regime as a bulwark against Nazism, as did the Western Communists who Orwell saw as his real target, but of course in that situation, Stalin didn't have to make up any fake war, since the Nazis really did invade the USSR, and with unspeakable horrifying brutality moreover.
  • The 16th century comedy Morosophus by Dutch playwright Wilhelm Gnapheus stars a Know-Nothing Know-It-All Astrologer who is rumored to have a large book sitting around in his house collecting dust. It was intended on an attack on Gnapheus' contemporary Nicholas Copernicus,note  who indeed had a large book sitting around in his house. Shortly before Copernicus' death, that book was published under the title On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, the first great work on Heliocentrism. Today, Copernicus is remembered as a genius and one of the fathers of modern astronomy because of that work.
  • The work of James Tiptree Jr. often tackles woman's rights and feminism in future settings, but is extremely cynical about the degree of progress from the worst of the 20th century. In "With Delicate Mad Hands", for example, the male astronauts on a future space mission see no big deal with raping their token female crew member; she fears she'll get in trouble for resisting, not them getting in trouble for rape. Fairly acceptable since discussing the issue requires a future where it still is one.
  • Terra Ignota very weirdly invokes this in its examination of gender in its far-future utopian setting. By the 2300s, gender equality has been achieved by abolishing the concept of gender; as part of this, everybody uses neutral pronouns and names and dresses in unisex clothing, with gender signifiers considered the realm of pornography. But Mycroft, the narrator, insists on assigning gender to everyone according to how stereotypically masculine/feminine they behave — in accordance to 1700s stereotypes of masculinity and femininity — as part of his insistence on interpreting the world through the lens of Enlightenment-era philosophy. Furthermore, it's quickly clear that the old gender stereotypes never really went away; they were just papered over without actually being addressed, and various characters deliberately cast themselves as stereotypes (such as the delicate, fragile woman who must be protected, or the seductive, domineering male outlaw) to manipulate others, and in a putatively nongendered world, nobody knows how to resist such manipulation, and so fall into stereotypes themselves.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Played with in The 4400. Richard Tyler, an African-American who was brought forward in time from the Korean War era, is sitting in a cafe having a cigarette when he notices he is getting a lot of dirty looks. He assumes it's because he's in a Whites-only establishment but in reality it's because the cafe is non-smoking and people want him to put it out. He's also later pleasantly surprised to find that Lily is happy with the prospect that he'd fathered her baby (via mystical pregnancy) and they later get into a relationship without his being Black or her White an issue, whereas he was nearly killed for being discovered to have dated a White woman, before his transport into the future. Richard still holds the standard views of his time on many things however, asking Shawn what his intentions are toward Richard's daughter Isabelle as they grow close (he'd probably have been appalled to discover they were having extramarital sex).
  • Parodied on MADtv (1995), with the Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon/Captain Video-esque "Rocket Revengers". The show— which took place in the far year of 1998—was a time 20 Minutes into the Future from the years the series was claimed to be made, between 1938 and 1941, and has those values parodied. Despite having a black man, Abraham Jefferson (played by Phil LaMarr) on the three-man team, he was constantly talked-over by the white leader of the team, Dutch Enderson. All three espoused purely White-American Christian values ("Thank the world's one God we all survived!") and smoking was a healthy method of taking in meals. The black people also lived on the separate but equal island of Antarctica, to which they had voluntarily moved. The main villain of the series was a Yellow Peril caricature called Tuca, Queen of the Chinese (played by a black actress in Yellowface) and the sole woman who aided the Rocket Revengers group, Betty (even though she was called Professor) was treated as little more than a secretary and lamented that Dutch didn't think she was pretty and she was unmarried.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series tried to avert this. On one hand, they had minorities and women in Starfleet, which was progressive for the '60s, and no one smoking.note  But the women, although never explicitly told to Stay in the Kitchen, were often portrayed as damsels in distress or as only joining the space service to find a husband. In short they did their best to avert the trope but couldn't due to Executive Meddling, especially in the pilot (see below).
    • In the episode "The Enemy Within", evil!Kirk tries to rape Yeoman Rand. She later recounts the incident for good!Kirk, Spock and McCoy, displaying a very '60s attitude about it ("I don't want to get you into trouble. I wouldn't even have mentioned it.") while being in tears. And this is while she is unaware that there are two Kirks running around!
    • Probably the worst example was in "Turnabout Intruder", the last episode of the original series. Written by Gene Roddenberry himself, it reveals that women aren't allowed to be captains in Starfleet, in the 23rd century. A female character who tries to get around this rule by using alien technology to switch bodies with Kirk is portrayed as being a horribly misguided fanatic.
      • The franchise, naturally, retconned this in Star Trek: Enterprise, introducing Erika Hernandez, a no-nonsense woman who had previously served with Archer, as the captain of the second Warp 5 starship (Columbia NX-02). In the 2000s, people were ready for that sort of thing.
      • There is the possibility (lampshaded by McCoy) that the woman in question was mentally ill to begin with, and thus may not have interpreted regulations with the right frame of mind.
      • Leonard Nimoy hated this episode, and confirmed that Roddenberry really meant for Starfleet to have such a rule: females could not captain a starship.
        His goal was to prove, quote, 'That women, although they claim equality, cannot really do things as well, under certain circumstances, as a man' — like the command function, for example... What he set out to prove was that this lady, given command of the ship, would blow it. That's really what the script was about. Just that simple."
      • Later biographers blame Creator Breakdown, as Roddenberry was going through his divorce during this time.
      • Since the episode aired, the franchise and fans have handwaved the "no female captains" implication by playing Exact Words and suggesting the character's actual line, about the world of Starfleet captains not including women, refers to the fact that captains are "married to their ship" and don't give themselves over to romantic temptation. Certainly, the two prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise and Star Trek: Discovery, the latter set only about a decade before TOS, support this rationalization as both feature female captains.
    • The original pilot of the series included a female first officer. She capably commanded the Enterprise for most of the episode while the (male) captain was held captive by aliens. In fact, she was the one who dispassionately decided that letting the aliens breed humans for slavery would be unacceptable, when Captain Pike seemed willing to let it happen as part of a bargain to save the Enterprise. Number One coldly threatened to blow everyone up — including herself — instead, and this was what finally convinced the aliens to abandon their plot and let everyone go. If only they let Roddenberry keep that character in the show, it would have been an amazing aversion of this trope... but the pilot's test audiences failed to react well, and Roddenberry pissed off the network by casting his girlfriend in the role. The network also didn't like the idea of the Enterprise having a 50-50 gender split. Eliminating Number One and reducing the percentage of women were two compromises Roddenberry made, allegedly in part so that he could keep the character of Spock. (Pike and Number One did eventually get their own series, about fifty-five years later.)
    • "Plato's Stepchildren" is credited as having the very first (obvious, anyway) interracial kiss on US television. According to some accounts, it very, very nearly fell prey to those meddlesome executives, and was finally only allowed through when it was demonstrated that neither party involved really wanted to do it, but were being forced by alien mind control. The studio was horribly afraid they were going to be inundated with hate mail, that the country would be in an uproar over such an act and simply couldn't accept it; they got a ton of letters alright, with a distinct majority praising the scene. Nichelle Nichols even recounts reading a letter from a Southern man, who was "totally against the mixing of the races. However, any time a red-blooded American boy like Captain Kirk gets a beautiful dame in his arms that looks like Uhura, he ain't gonna fight it." Now THAT'S progress.
      • Plus, William Shatner and Nichols were adamant about keeping the kiss (which if you've read either of their autobiographies seems to be the only thing they ever agreed on), and deliberately screwed up every take of Kirk and Uhura not kissing, so the editors were forced to use a shot where they did.
    • Star Trek: The Animated Series (made only a few years after TOS) had an episode featuring Uhura in command after the male crew members of the Enterprise are incapacitated. A Moment of Awesome for early Star Trek in general and Uhura in particular!
    • In "Who Mourns for Adonais?" it appears that Scotty will soon be marrying a female crew member, causing Kirk and McCoy to lament the loss of such a skilled crewman, because she'll be giving up her job once she ties the knot. Oddly enough, this comes a season after "Balance of Terror" featured a marriage between two crew members where this attitude was completely absent.note 
    • On another note, the franchise's depiction of Earth as a One World Order is becoming less and less likely given both deteriorating/fluctuating international and intranational relations, as well as the renewed focus on racial and/or ethnic identity in the developed world. Many on both the political left and right today would balk (for very different reasons) at the sheer amount of cultural erasure needed to make such an arrangement even remotely feasible. This was something even the writers themselves could see was problematic as early as TNG, with the Borg being partly written as a grim parody of the Federation's assimilationist values taken to their logical conclusion. The 90's series see-sawed on how Earth cultural identities were depicted; early episodes of TNG implied that they had been erased by calling French a "dead language", but later seasons and series demonstrated the continued survival of internal Earth culture with Worf's Russian parents, Picard's family vineyard in France, and Sisko's father running a Creole restaurant in New Orleans (where you can still get a horse & carriage).
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • The recurring character Ro Laren was forced to remove her Bajoran earring when she began service on the Enterprise despite it being religious garb. Although this was because Riker didn't like her and was being a hardass (he later permitted her to resume wearing it after she'd proven herself), Star Trek: Voyager established that this was a valid interpretation of regulations. This echoed struggles in the United States military for service members of faiths whose garb clashed with uniform code. Since the episodes' airing in the 90's, significant gains have been made (albeit typically on an individual basis) to allow Sikh servicemen to keep turbans and beards, Muslim servicewomen to cover their hair if they choose, and a Native officer to wear memorial feathers in his dress uniform. The newer series reflect this with Star Trek: Lower Decks showing a Sikh officer with a turban that matches his division (Operations yellow).
    • "The Outcast" features pronoun confusion when the crew has to work with a genderless species in a rescue operation. "He" and "she" are inappropriate (and in fact, are actively offensive to them) but "It" Is Dehumanizing. Soren, the liason, says that the language does have a genderless pronoun for people, but we don't hear it. A few decades later, English-speaking nonbinary humans began solving the problem themselves by either adopting the "singular they" (which was already used when referring to nonspecific singular people) or creating new pronouns (neopronouns) like "ze" and "xie" to refer to themselves. (Although it should be noted that a number of non-English languages don't have gendered pronouns in the first place.)
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): The episode "Two" is about two soldiers, one male and one female, from opposite sides being the last survivors of their war. The female soldier's combat uniform included a pleated skirt, and her only line is the Russian for "Pretty", referring to a dress in a store window.
  • Unavoidable with a Long Runner like Doctor Who:
    • The leader of La Résistance in "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" has some very 1960s attitudes towards women, such as Stay in the Kitchen and so on, despite being from 2164.
    • The Doctor telling Susan "Remember the Red Indian!" in "An Unearthly Child" - not only is this racist nowadays, it doesn't make any sense for the Doctor to hold these views. While the show had not yet decided for certain that he was an alien, he was at the very least from the distant future. *
    • Both "The Tenth Planet" and "The Moonbase" show big multinational teams of scientists from all over the world, meant to show that in the future we don't discriminate. This message probably would have worked better if any of the scientists had been women. In addition, "The Tenth Planet" in particular shows the male scientists being chauvinistic towards Polly and telling her to make the coffee. (Decades later, "Last Christmas" would poke fun at this in one scene.) Though Polly serving coffee is little more than a front; she's actually trying to get Dr Barclay on their side so it's more of "not trying to arouse suspicion".
    • "Twice Upon A Time" pokes fun at this by having the Twelfth Doctor encountering the First Doctor at the time of "The Tenth Planet" and being embarrassed at his sexist attitudes. This, of course, was intended to create an Ironic Echo scenario when the Twelfth Doctor regenerates into a woman in the finale.
    • We never see a single Time Lady from their introduction as a race in "The War Games" in 1969 until 1977's "The Invasion of Time" (ignoring Susan, who was a character back when the show followed different rules and the Doctor was still Ambiguously Human). Fans at the time (and some of the actors) even thought Time Lords might have been a One-Gender Race. "The Deadly Assassin" attempted to work with this by turning it into a satire of the white-boys'-club mentality of British politics — a criticism that still has fangs decades later - but still seems short-sighted with Margaret Thatcher being Leader of the Opposition at the time. From the late 70s onwards, an implicit retcon was made that Time Lords were a post-sexist society, and the Doctor even got a Time Lady as a companion (who is sometimes shown to be baffled by human attitudes towards women). Later than that it was established that Time Lords and Time Ladies occasionally swap sex when they regenerate, and both the Capaldi-era Master and the Thirteenth Doctor are women. This also means they have their own type of gender identity issues; a one-off gag in "Hell Bent" has a newly-regenerated Time Lady remark how glad she was to be back to normal after her single male regeneration.
  • Parodied and subverted in Garth Marenghis Darkplace. The writing in the So Bad, It's Good Show Within a Show is astoundingly chauvinistic and racist, making it seem like a prime case of Values Dissonance from the 60s or so. Except the show was made in the late 80s long after such attitudes had been discredited; Garth Marenghi is just that much of a bigot. It's implied that this contributed heavily to Darkplace getting cancelled.
    Garth: I portended that by the year 2040, the world would see its first female mechanic. And who knows, she might even do a decent job.
  • The Handmaid's Tale:
    • The series appears to have done away with the blatant white supremacy in Gilead as described in the novel where, not only did they want babies, the goal was white babies, with black people being "removed to North Dakota" (quite possibly getting killed there). In the novel, Moira was white, while African-American actress Samira Wiley plays her in the series. We see some photos of black Commanders and Wives in the clinic. No one thinks anything is odd when Moira impersonates an Aunt, either. There are some black men among the Guardians and common workers too. There are some Commanders and Wives who do explicitly want white babies (Aunt Lydia mentions a couple who explicitly requested not to have a Handmaid of color) but it's less institutionalized than in the novel.
    • The series also so far removes the criticism of radical feminists present in the original book. In the book, Offred's mother was a radical second-wave feminist who believed that all men were sexist and that pornography should be banned. In the feminist community, there was fierce debate about that point of view, however, nowadays it's more of a fringe belief. Additionally, since the series received a Setting Update to the 21st century, it wouldn't make sense temporally for Offred's mother to be a second-wave feminist (since the second wave started in the 60s, and at this point Offred's mother could've been born in the early 60snote ). When she's finally introduced in season 2, she is a feminist (who takes Offred to feminist rallies as a child), but not an extremist like her book counterpart.
    • Serena Joy's pre-Gilead profession is changed from ultra-conservative televangelist to Blonde Republican Sex Kitten political pundit/author (in the vein of Tomi Lahren or Ann Coulter), reflecting the decline in the relevance of televangelism during the 2010s.
  • Wonder Woman (1975): In "Time Bomb", Cassandra Loren, despite being from the enlightened year of 2155, bases her entire plan on convincing men to believe her future knowledge by seduction rather than using that knowledge to execute her plan herself.

  • The song "Year 3000" by Busted gives us the line "Not much has changed, but they live underwater." Which they promptly undermine by claiming that "triple-breasted women swim around town totally naked", take that as you will...

    Tabletop Games 
  • Space 1889 has an alternate history version: Mankind achieves space travel in 1870, meets other intelligent species and gets access to material that makes flying ships possible — with all other things being the same, including society. The discovery of other intelligent species, for instance, has almost no effect on human society, and European colonists treat the new planets as new places to explore, trade with and colonize, and Martians and lizard men as just a new form of natives. Player characters are supposed to generally embody Victorian society and values; the players disagree with much of these. The in-game society is justifiably old-fashioned since it is actually set in an alternative past.
  • Eclipse Phase offers a rather unusual case. There's an in-universe "faction" (if they may be called so) collectively known as Anons. Yes, the Image Boards kind — or, more accurately, a future incarnation of 4chan's anons. The game depicts them in a mildly favourable light, as whistleblowers and vigilante social gadflies striking against stuffy establishment figures. Had this depiction been developed in the era of "memeing for Trump", one figures we'd see them presented as wannabe Black Shirts for the Jovians or even worse. Of course, this is only a few years' worth of difference as opposed to most of the examples on this page, so the jury may be still out on whether the sudden anti-liberal turn of the Internet Jerk is a long-term development.

    Video Games 
  • Jonathan Ingram at one point during Policenauts can comment on a strip club that employs transgender "biovestites", which he's quite dismissive of, labeling them "so-called women" and states that 2037 Los Angeles is "unfortunately" famous for this sort of thing. While one could excuse these attitudes as Deliberate Values Dissonance due to him being a Fish out of Temporal Water, the incident that saw him get cryogenically frozen happened in 2013, and plenty of people from that year would find such opinions horribly bigoted.
  • The Fallout series deconstructs this by parodying 50s sci-fi that played it straight. In the series’ Alternate History, the Berlin Wall never fell, and China remained staunchly communist for roughly a century longer than it did in real life, while American culture, gender roles and politics barely changed in that time either. But when the oil that fueled prosperity finally started running out, America started Putting on the Reich and invaded Canada to prevent itself from simply imploding because it had never learned to evolve or adapt, and the world was almost destroyed when Cold War politics combined with modern resource scarcity.

    Web Animation 
  • While the vast majority of Red vs. Blue has aged rather well, many jokes/aspects of the earlier seasons definitely wouldn't fly if they had came out today and not in the 2000s and early 2010s. The Blood Gulch Chronicles probably gets this the worst, as the various examples of Innocently Insensitive Unfortunate Implications during its eventsnote  would all have gotten a noticeable backlash if they were to have been first released in years later. Though to Rooster Teeth's credit, the series has actually adapted relatively well to the times by taking these criticisms into account, with it in turn focusing on having more politically correct humor as the series has gone on while either removing the series' more problematic elements or giving them a suitable Revision/Rewrite.note 

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama takes place in the far-off year of 3000, but the world is socially and culturally pretty identical to how they were in the early 2000s of the show's production, just with a whole universe to explore and futuristic technology to use. This was the point of the show — rather than trying to paint an accurate picture of the future, it's mainly using the utopian and dystopian ideals of what Science Fiction largely predicted to be the future as a vessel to satirize the culture of today, illustrating that even with spaceships and robots and aliens, people will mostly remain just as bumbling and average as we've always been. Even still, some of the attitudes are dated to the 2000s, to the point they adapt to the real-life changing times as the series continues to air — while society is typically depicted as heteronormative, with things like polyamory and gay marriage occasionally being depicted as controversial in episodes like "A Taste of Freedom," the post-revival episode "Proposition Infinity" makes a point that gay marriage is uncontroversially accepted in the 31st century (though robosexual marriage is not).
  • The Jetsons: This trope was the whole point of the show, since it was meant to be the future equivalent of The Flintstones. The fact that there were no real cultural differences despite being set a hundred years in the future was a big part of the show's humor.
    • Jane Jetson was a typical 1950s housewife, despite Rosie the Robot Maid doing most of the housework. She also didn't know how to drivenote  even though they had flying cars. When she gets driving lessons, her instructor panics at the idea of a female student, then changes his "Student Driver" sign to read "Woman Student Driver: BEWARE".
    • There was one episode George spent complaining about women drivers, with an unflatteringly portrayed female bus driver getting Played for Laughs.
    • On the other hand, lots of jokes based on George complaining about his "button finger" (with the implication that what we are lazy about will just get more crazy in a world where you just push buttons all day) are Harsher in Hindsight due to increasing awareness of Repetitive Strain Injury.
  • Many future-themed classic cartoons, from Looney Tunes to Tex Avery MGM Cartoons, fit this trope. In many instances, they even assume the dress styles of the era in which they were made will still be relevant in the future.